Feudal Lords logo

Publisher: Impressions Price: £24.99

Based in medieval times, Feudal Lords is a strategy-based game which sees you assuming the role of a warmongering king. It is reminiscent of a couple of other software titles on offer. Having played US Gold's Joan of Arc and Cinemaware's Defender of the Crown, Jacek Bochenski, a Polish programmer, decided he wanted to create a game that featured a little more strategic depth. Aided by Impressions, Feudal Lords is the result of his efforts.

There are four participants, any combination of which can be either human or computer controlled, and the action takes place over the mystical land of Euthrania. The basic idea is to defeat your opponents and gain control of the land, winning the hand of the beautiful princess Maria in the process.

At the start you merely occupy your home territory, but by transferring men from your castle you're your army you will be able to invade adjacent areas.
Depending on the strength of your army your should be able to conquer the territory.
Capturing land and defeating the other lords isn't all you have to do. Your subjects will have to be taxed in order to fund your campaigns.

Popularity counts for a lot, and in order to maintain or increase the population of your land you'll have to supply markets, craft centres, churches and castles.
Trading in iron - essential in the creation of weapons - wine and grain also helps maintain a comfortable economic level.

Shrewd lords will forge alliances with stronger or threatening armies. If your army looks a little weak it is possible to plot an uprising in an enemy territory. For those with a little more in their coffers, a quick glance at the other lords will tell which has the fewest bodyguards. If you have enough cash you can hire an assassin to do your dirty work.

the game is played in rounds. The computer randomly deciding the order to play.
Control is mostly by the mouse, but when two large armies confront each other the involved parties take part in an arcade-style battle.
The action continues until one lord remains as the clear ruler of Euthrania.

Feudal Lords logo

Impressions have been touting Feudal Lords as being an historically detailed and accurate Medieval simulation which has taken programmer, Jacek Bochenski, three years to develop and fine tune. What you actually get for your money is a below-par strategy game, tarted up with some mediocre graphics, which has little to do with historical accuracy and even less with entertainment.

The game is set in the mythical land of Euthrania where four warring Lords aim to become absolute rulers of all they survey as well as coping off with the sultry Princess Maria. Naturally enough, all this naked aggression ultimately leads to three of the Lords getting bumped off and the one that's left proclaiming himself as King.

You can choose to play any one of the Lords and play against friends or computer opponents. The object is to occupy all the regions represented on a map by using the requisite amounts of death and destruction to win over the enemy forces.

Starting the game with only a small region under his/her control, the player has to manipulate a variety of resources to achieve success. Armies have to be built up, equipped and paid, alliances forged, taxes raised and crops gathered to feed a starving population.

Different types of soldiers should be used for different tasks. Knights are your most effective troops, with a ten to one strength ration over foot soldiers and even more over bowmen. However, bowmen can prove more effective when besieging a castle, while foot soldiers come into their own when you're facing a pitched battle.

Alliances are one way of avoiding war and building up troops before you tear up the treaty and attack. You can also try and nobble your opponents by secretly plotting to bring about an uprising in their country. If you fail, don't worry, as there won't be any evidence to incriminate you - but the whole episode will have cost you dearly. It's also possible to fund an assassination attempt: the more money ploughed into the venture, the greater the chance of success.

Unfortunately, the strategy elements are rather basic and can't really compete with games such as Defender of the Crown and Gainstar's Kingdoms of England. There just isn't enough to keep a player occupied or interested. Game turns are frustratingly long, as the computer calculates the effects of each action, and the option screens are confusing and, for the most part, unnecessary.

Much of the info could have been combined and presented in a more user-friendly manner. Perhaps the developers should have taken a look at Virgin's Supremacy for a few hints on how it should be done.

Poor graphics and an irritating intro tune complement a below-par strategy that's slow, unsophisticated and uninspiring.

Feudal Lords logo

Impressions, Amiga £24.99

Reminding me very much of the old CRL game Legend, Feudal Lords is a relatively simple medieval strategy game, for one to four players, each playing a feudal lord. The play, which takes place on the restricted area of Euthrania, is divided into small sections. The winner is decided when one of the lords takes possession of all of the territories. You lose when your own home territory (the one containing your castle) is taken by another lord.

There are many detail factors that are supposed to govern your strategy. For example, your economy includes such subjects as trade, taxation and so on - the idea being to exploit the peasants for as much cash as possible without getting kicked out of office.

Your popularity is deemed important: people will migrate to your lands if you are popular (thus you can raise bigger armies, raise more crops, make more cash, build more castles, etc). Acts such as building churches will make you popular and the church will also encourage a higher birth rate (increasing the population, your army, etc). Another way of making cash is to invest what you have got into crafts or markets.

Diplomacy is encouraged. You can enter non-aggression pacts with your three neighbours for varying lengths of time, or you can sponsor assassination attempts or even plot against your fellow lords.

On the whole you might think that Feudal Lords offers an encouraging blend of strategy and tactics, but actual gameplay does not live up to the early promise. The trouble with this game is that it is too heavily weighted towards combat (the economics do not make a whole lot of difference) and the artificial intelligence is, on the other hand, unfair towards the player during one-player games.

The opening play of the game is a mad dash to scoop up all of the neutral territory. Afterwards one of the popular modes of play involves a stagnation while the other three lords talk amongst themselves. While they are doing that one of the three hits you with everything he has got.

The turn method is unfair too. Instead of the game allowing simultaneous orders to be fed into the play, you are treated to a random turn method. Hence you may be first to make a move on turn one, third to move on turn two, etc. This sometimes leads to your worst enemy having the last move on one turn and the first move on the next turn, in effect giving him tow consecutive turns. When the position is critical this sort of potential to wreak havoc can be devastating - all because of the poorly designed game system!

The theories of combat integrated within the game are fictional and poorly managed. Far too much emphasis is placed upon the knight as the all-important power in the game and too little credit is given to the bowmen who are not, according to the manual, very useful in normal battle - ever heard of Agincourt, Impressions?

The manual comes in for more criticism with its poor explanation of the menu options. At one point I accessed a screen with three menu titles (Passage/Attack/Join). No explanation was given as to what it all meant. Okay, attack is one thing but 'Join' and 'Passage'? Evidently, Impressions believe we are all mindreaders.

Disappointing gameplay, poor game design, a shoddy manual, the game crushes when you lose... Need I go on?